WILSON, N.C. — August 19, 2015 — Dr. Jane S. Webster, professor of religion and philosophy at Barton College, recently participated in the 2015 Seminar on Teaching Interfaith Understanding in Chicago. Dr. Webster was just one of 26 faculty scholars from across the country invited to take part in the five-day event, held on August 2-6.
The annual series of seminars, organized by the Council of Independent Colleges and Interfaith Youth Core, helps broaden faculty members’ knowledge and perspective to help them strengthen the teaching of interfaith understanding, develop new courses and other resources, and encourage the development of a growing network of faculty members who are committed to teaching this subject.
“Health Promotions majors at Barton are now required to take a religion course, called ‘Health, Healing, and Religion,’” said Webster. “As the instructor, I know that deep learning occurs more often – and can be transformative – when students participate in the actual activities of the tradition. Some students wanted to opt out of the learning experiences. Do I let them?”
Webster’s question was one of several case studies explored during the seminar. Participants discussed these examples and worked together to examine possible solutions. Webster’s case study, inspired by her own pursuits to engage students in conversations of spiritual identity, was especially challenging and generated much interest at the seminar.
“Professor Webster brought creative content and excellent pedagogical ideas to the seminar,” said Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and a co-facilitator of the seminar. “The case study she presented was one of the most stimulating I had heard in years. I appreciated her thoughtful participation and am eager to see how she implements the learnings from the seminar back at Barton College.”
The seminar helped Webster realize the need for an interdisciplinary program in interfaith understanding, and she hopes to develop new outcomes for Barton’s School of Humanities by the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.
A native of Canada, Webster joined the Barton faculty in fall 2000. She has authored or edited five books: “Ingesting Jesus: Eating and Drinking in the Gospel of John” (2003); two volumes of “Teaching the Bible in the Liberal Arts Classroom” (Sheffield Phoenix Press 2012 and 2015); “Understanding Bible by Design” (Fortress 2014); and “Lady Parts: Biblical Women and The Vagina Monologues” (Wipf & Stock 2012), a collection of narratives inspired by the renowned play. She also serves as director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.